It’s day three of the 10-day Daniel fast I’m on. In case you don’t know what that is, it’s a fast based on scripture where Daniel eats only choice foods (see below for more information). In this case I can eat fruits and vegetables and food from plants and seeds. No meat, dairy, sugar, yeast (read bread), caffeine, alcohol, tea, etc.

So far it’s been okay but there have been times when only a prayer asking for help will keep me rooted. And that’s the entire point after all. When you sacrifice, you turn to God and get closer to Him and meditate more on what He wants for you.

Here are some of the highlights of my last couple of days.

  • Three reaches into the refrigerator at 8 a.m. for my normal caffeine induced pick-me-up, a diet coke. With a quick snap-back reflex of the arm and a big sigh, I filled up a glass of water to re-hydrate and prayed to God to please keep me awake on my drive in to work.
  • Four or five serious but quick chocolate cravings. As I walk through my office, the remnants of the vendor gifts waft deliciously at me and tease me.
  • Eight ounces of peanuts consumed. A staple that keeps me sane.
  • Soy yogurt for breakfast this morning. The color and consistency are enough to turn you off but as a substitute it’s okay and the taste is alright but not really something I’ll stick with.
  • A body that is so racked with fatigue and cannot be uplifted with any additive, had to fall to sleep last night at 6:30 p.m. I awoke to the one cat who constantly runs away from me begging for some petting. He must have missed me chasing him and wondered what was wrong.

Tonight I must go back to the stove to cook up something edible that will last a few days so I don’t get stuck with nothing to eat and a craving that will send me to Chik-fil-A.

In case you are interested in the background of Daniel and the fast, here is an excerpt from this web site:  http://www.gotquestions.org/Daniel-fast.html

The concept of a Daniel fast comes from Daniel 1:8-14, “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, ‘I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.’

Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, ‘Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.’ So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.”

The background of the Daniel fast is that Daniel and his three friends had been deported to Babylon when Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians conquered Judah (2 Kings 24:13-14). Daniel and his three friends were put into the Babylonian court servant “training program.” Part of the program was learning Babylonian customs, beliefs, laws, and practices. The eating habits of the Babylonians were not in complete agreement with the Mosaic Law. As a result, Daniel asked if he and his three friends could be excused from eating the meat (which was likely sacrificed to Babylonian false gods and idols).

The people God puts in my life continue to amaze me. Some are challenges. Some are blessings. Some are truth-bearers. Some are saviors. Some teach. Some learn. And some, well, they just hug you at the exact time you need it.

I pray on the way to work pretty much every day. First I start off thinking how I want to be in bed and sleep some more. Then someone cuts me off and I go into my grumpy mode. Then I realize that is no way to start a day. So, at about 11 minutes into my commute I ask the Jesus to forgive me for all my nasty thoughts and sins and then beg the Holy Spirit to invade my body and mind and take over because I’m too tired to carry out His fruit and be generous, patient, gracious… all those things that take effort.

Why does being patient and kind and gentle take effort? Why do I need to pray for that every day? Why can’t it just be part of my personality? This is where God tells me “It’s because if you didn’t need to struggle, you would think you didn’t need me.” Good point oh mighty One.

So the other day after a long day of not telling a few people exactly how I feel about their last email or the request to hurry something along that has already been hurried along, or saying “NO!” to a client who is unreasonable, or not getting angry at the super slow cashier person, or being upset with the consistent stream of broken things in my life that need fixing, I was in near tears. Stupid first-world problems were stressing me out and I really don’t want to have to take a xanax. I need a better solution.

Well, this is where God comes in and puts the other kind of people in my life. A short walk over to the neighbor’s house and what do I see but a smiling toddler crawling toward me. This munchkin doesn’t talk yet but I swear he knows exactly what we are saying to him—his facial expressions seem to hint that there is a wise old man in that little body. And then the gift from God came when I picked up the “Peanut” as I call him and he dove right into me and gave me a huge hug. He had never done that before and that’s when my tears started. Nothing feels so good as a big ‘ol hug from a good friend or in this case a cuter than cute little boy.

God’s anxiety pill. Awesome. It also helps to sit on a quiet beach and soak in the beauty of the sea with the Grendel dog. That does not stink either. 

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I am guilty of not completely appreciating gifts that have been given to me freely and sit visibly in front of me as I stare past them thinking about something meaningless. It’s like when I go walking down the beach and I look at all the huge beautiful houses and think how cool it would be to live there. Then I chastise myself and turn the other direction and remember that the most beautiful thing in my view is the vast ocean, sky, and beach. The houses are going to get knocked down some day but the gifts of warm sand and cool water and dolphins jumping—those are God’s gifts—all free and all perfectly lovely.

I’m thinking about gifts today because last year on this day—a seemingly normal uncelebrated day on the calendar—my brother invited me up to his house in MD to spend the day with him and the kids. Why? No reason, we just hadn’t seen each other in awhile and wanted to spend some time together. There was no agenda and no special events planned. So I went up there and cooked a rice krispy house with the boys that turned out so bad we laughed, took some photos, and proclaimed it a “krispy fail. “

Later we decided to go to a movie. The Lorax was playing and after we laughed at how the kids could memorize every line in the movie but couldn’t remember their homework assignments for the next day. As Greg put it, “If only they would use their powers for good.”

I remember that normal, lazy but fun day very well because it was a gift from God. God gave me that last day with my brother before he died the next week. We spent the day talking about a lot of things and just enjoying our friendship and our family. I will always cherish the memories of that day and thank God for letting me have those precious moments with Greg and the kids.

It sounds cliché when people say things about living life to the fullest and appreciating the moments you have with loved ones, but nevertheless it is true. Just listening to jokes and stories, hanging out and enjoying some fresh air or a warm fire, taking a walk, watching a movie, or playing a game—it’s all precious time spent that lets us be present in each other’s lives. I wish I could spend more time with Greg’s kids like we used to but I’ll let God be in control of the timetable on that one.

In the meantime, I’ll remember that day always. Especially when I go into work each day. Last year my coworkers made these decorations that reminded me of the Lorax trees, and they hang all over our office. At first I was sad each morning when I walked in and saw them and was reminded of my loss. Now I just see the pretty paper flowers and remember the gift God gave me and I’m thankful.

"Rice Krispy Fail"

“Rice Krispy Fail”

This is day 10, the last day of my Daniel fast. I wasn’t sure I would make it past three days but here I am, one day (or less now) from a yummy pizza. I have been free of caffeine, refined sugar, dairy, meat, baked bread, and all things processed for 10 days. I believe I did it without biting anyone’s head off or pacing up and down the hall trying not to cheat and sneak a bite of chocolate. All the glory and all the praise goes to God. It was God that kept me focused and held me back from temptation. With my love of food and diet coke and wine, it was clearly divine intervention that has gotten me through these 10 days.

I was okay for the most part but last night the cravings started to get pretty strong. Maybe it was because I was looking down the slope at the finish line. I’ve been thinking pretty hard about what I want to eat first. I know, obsessing a bit? Yes, because I want to keep up the habit of daily communication with God and self control and all that the fruit of the Spirit bestows upon us. I don’t want to gorge and eat just because I can.

I’m getting a new refrigerator tomorrow. It ‘s perfect timing to throw out a bunch of stuff that’s been lingering too long in the old fridge—along with some bad habits that need to go. I know I won’t conquer them all at once, but this experience has shown me just how strong and amazing God is—He can overcome my biggest obstacles with no effort.

Thanks for all who were praying for me and supporting me during this fast. Thanks to Pastor Mark at NCC who encourages our church to do this every year. He does it for 21 days but I’m a neophyte and this is a huge issue for me so I chose to have a goal I thought was extremely difficult but not seemingly insurmountable. Maybe I should have had more faith in God who of course could get me through another 11 days. But now that I’m fixated on having my glass of wine with some cheese and bread for dinner tomorrow, I don’t think even Moses could part me from that.

So in parting, thinking about getting through today and then celebrating, I’ll give a little nod to my favorite musical, Les Miserables:

One day more!
Another day, another destiny.
This never-ending road to Calvary…

Tomorrow we’ll discover
What our God in Heaven has in store!
One more dawn
One more day
One day more!

I’m taking a poll: If you were coming off a fast, what would you want to eat first?

I find doing something you think is hard is often not that hard. It’s getting to the starting point that’s the hardest part. Whether you’ve hit rock bottom and said okay, I’ll get off my butt and do it, or maybe just reached that point when you actually can let go of the control you think you have and hand it over to God, it takes that hard push to get moving before momentum takes over. It’s not easy—even though we are encouraged over and over again—but it really is awesome when you do and can see how God can get you through.

My attitude and habits needed to change, and I needed God to get me moving. So, now I’m on day six of a 10-day Daniel fast. I honestly didn’t think I’d make it three days but here I am thanking God for getting me through this. The thing that seems to work with God and me is I tell Him I’ll suffer the pain—cravings, hunger, desire, etc., for whatever I am trying to give up—I just need Him to keep me from succumbing to the temptation. “God,” I say, “please keep me from grabbing that bagel or coke, or whatever—just help me to not fall off this path.” And He does. He is so good to me. I am blessed so much and praise Him for family, friends, and a good life.

My friend asked me the other day if this was getting harder. In some ways it is and others not. There are moments, you know? One minute I’ll be dreaming about a cheeseburger and another I’ll be content and full after eating a veggie burger without a bun. Having said that, I did make “pizza” today that I can’t quite say was terrible but it didn’t really hit the spot. I’m not sure what I’ll eat first when I done this, but real pizza just jumped to the top of the list. Having said that, I don’t plan on gorging myself with junk when this is over. I’ve lost 10 pounds so far (yes, I know, lots of water weight, but who cares—I’ll take it). So I’m feeling pretty good and needed this kick start to a new year and a new me.

I had a goal last year that took a back seat due to all the tragedy that happened. But I’m going back to that now. I want to get in shape again so I can run around with the kids and maybe, just maybe I’ll sign up for the four-day trek to Machu Picchu. Now that is a very lofty goal. It will take a lot of veggie burgers to get there but if I keep my focus on God, maybe He’ll help me explore His beautiful world old-school style.

Do you have a dream? Do you need to restart your life? If you aren’t a follower of Jesus, I would encourage you to read the Gospels. Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John. All four are the story of Christ told to different audiences. It could be just the thing to save your life. He saved mine. And He can help you too. And you don’t have to eat like a vegan on steroids to be close to Him.

The day started off with a reminder of how easy it is to be stuck in a rut. As I went to reach for my morning diet coke—the one I felt I needed soooooo much to wake me up so I could drive to work— I remembered that this was day one of the Daniel fast and instead of the soda, grabbed my water bottle.  Oh joy.

It really does take constant prayer to help you through the random parts of the day when you are doing something like fasting. In case you don’t read my blog regularly (and why don’t you is what I should be asking), the Daniel fast is a ten day (sometimes 21 days but I’m super weak and this is my first try at it) restriction of a diet. Only things that come from seeds—veggies, fruits, whole grain, nuts can be eaten and only water is a choice for drink. Nothing processed, no sugar, no dairy, no meat. Kill me now.

I asked God a few times today to curse the man who invented carbonated beverages and questioned Him on why I couldn’t have my green tea. It’s good for me God! And I’m sleeping through this Monday morning all-staff meeting because I didn’t sleep last night and really need a pick me up. Ahhhhhh!

Okay, moving on—I just want to give God a huge thank you that I’m allowed to eat peanuts and popcorn on this fast. Man did that save me today! A boring salad at lunch was not going to do it. But the juicy cantaloupe and Clementine at breakfast were fabulous. Nature’s candy!

As I drove home I knew the worst was coming. After cleaning the house and doing some chores I almost went right to bed but decided to read the Bible and have a good meal. It’s very hard to resist temptation when you are tired and hungry and that little microwavable can of Easy Mac is staring you in the face. Time to pray. Okay, got me enough strength to cook up some veggies and brown rice—yum! Actually when I first started to eat it, it was a gift from God and tasted wonderful. As it got colder it tasted less wonderful but it was nutritious and good. Praise God.

I’ve decided to read Isaiah during this fast and it is very appropriate. Tonight’s chapters discussed giving your heart to God, not just going through the motions of empty rituals. It also reminded me to not worship idols. You may be thinking of a big carved figure but idols can be anything—money, cars, fame, food, etc. It’s good to remember that we can easily get caught up placing too much importance on those worldly things. Moderation is good and God is great!

Okay, so the dog and cat are very upset that there were no meat and cheese leftovers tonight and they have gone off to sulk. I am going to partake in what may be labeled an idol—Season three of Downton Abbey. There, I said it. I confess it and will repent once the season premier is over. And I will continue to pray for help resisting temptation tonight as I sit and wish that I could have some chocolate for dessert. Oh day two, here we come.

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead. Philippians 3:13

Pastor Josh read this passage this morning and I thought it was very fitting. You see, last year totally stank. I know for some of you it was a glorious year full of happiness and success and I say with all sincerity that I’m happy for you. But with the passing of my brother who had become a very close friend of mine, it was the worst year of my life. And it kept getting worse and worse as the year dragged on.

So with the changing of calendars and mark of time, we get to mentally draw a line and say enough! Do over, start over, fresh beginnings, whatever you want to call it. Forget the past, forgive, and move on.

My struggles over the past two years with injuries, weight gain, more injuries, grief, more grief, and other assorted ca-ca have reached a nadir. I need to get aligned spiritually, mentally, and physically with what’s right and what’s important. And to do that I’m joining many of my fellow NCC friends in a Daniel fast.

What’ a Daniel fast you ask? Basically it’s eating nothing but fruits, vegetables, nuts, and water. Things that come from seeds. Nothing processed, no sugar or artificial sweeteners, no fun. For you vegans, this may not be a big deal. For me—well let’s just say kicking a 20-year smoking habit was a walk in the park compared to this.

The purpose of fasting is not to lose weight (but I’m praying that I do), but rather to get closer to God. Only with God’s help can I accomplish this. Only by focusing on Him will I be able to reset the do-over buttons. I may not find the path I’m looking for—you know, the one that tells you what you should be doing with your life—but at least I’ll start walking again and hopefully in the right direction.

Tomorrow is day one. I am finishing off the last of the ice cream and wine tonight. I think I may miss my morning diet coke and green tea right off the bat, but I’m going to pray that through the headaches, feelings of hunger, cravings for bread and cheese, and the desire to just down some sugar straight from the bag, I resist temptation. I’m going to ask God to help me resist through the pain and struggle. I’ll take the pain; I just need His help locking the fridge door. And I could use your prayers too.

I usually don’t announce things like this because if I fail (which the odds are pretty good I will), then I wouldn’t have to admit that to the world. But I figure maybe writing about the experience and hopefully getting some feedback and ideas from you readers, I’ll have a small chance at making it.

I’d like to keep my mind on the needs of others through this ten day fast. So please tell me what you are dreaming for in this New Year and let me pray for you. Okay, I’m off to my last meal of meat for awhile. Have a great 2013!